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EPISODE#243
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: GUEST IS FR. SCOTT BORGMAN

Welcome to another episode of Orange County Catholic Radio, featuring host Rick Howick.

Today, Rick is thrilled to welcome Fr. Scott Borgman to the studio. Fr. Scott is the Judicial Vicar in the Office of Canonical Services for the Diocese of Orange.

Over the course of this fascinating dialogue, we’ll hear how Fr. Scott grew up as the son of a pastor in a missionary family. He spent considerable time overseas as a youth and his first language was French. Fr. Scott is also a convert to the Catholic faith.

Be sure to listen and SHARE this dynamic podcast with a friend!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/11/21

EPISODE#68
CATHEDRAL SQUARE: LIVING BY A STANDARD OF GOODNESS

Here comes yet another special edition of Cathedral Square with your host Fr. Christopher Smith.

During the just-concluded Advent season, Fr. Christopher had the opportunity to give a special presentation to the parishioners of St Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda, CA. The occasion was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary; and, the title of the talk is The Immaculate Conception of Mary: Living by a Standard of Goodness.

This message offers us all an ideal reflection as we begin anew in 2022.

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 1/1/22

EPISODE #293
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: AN ADVENT REFLECTION

Welcome to another episode of Empowered by the Spirit with Deacon Steve Greco. On this podcast, Deacon Steve is offers some reflective thoughts about the season of Advent. It is a season of anticipation and excitement, as we await the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

Be sure to listen and SHARE this program!

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/12/21

EPISODE#67
CATHEDRAL SQUARE: AN ADVENT EVENING OF RENEWAL

This is a very special edition of Cathedral Square with your host Fr. Christopher Smith.

Just days ago at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove (CA), a truly unique evening took place. It was called “An Advent Evening of Renewal.” On this podcast, we will now benefit from the audio of that special service!

A prominent pastor once said, “In order for something to simmer, you have to turn down the heat.” Fr. Christopher shares that he hopes this reflection will indeed be our opportunity to ‘turn down the heat’ of our everyday lives. Let us also really listen to see what the Lord would have to say to us during this Advent season – both individually and as a community.

Let us reflect on the spoken word, some beautiful sacred music, and a meditative rosary.

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/11/21

EPISODE #265
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS WITH BISHOP KEVIN VANN

Join Deacon Steve Greco and his guest, our very own Bishop Kevin Vann from the Diocese of Orange.

Today, the Bishop catches us up on some of the latest goings-on at Christ Cathedral; and, he shares some fascinating stories of some of his favorite Christmas traditions.

Tune in for a wonderful, heartfelt conversation! 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/20/20

EPISODE #264
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE JOY OF ADVENT WITH GUEST FR. FELIX JUST

On today’s much anticipated episode, Deacon Steve Greco welcomes Fr. Felix Just back to the studio. Fr. Felix is, among other things, a renowned biblical scholar.

Today’s conversation generated quite a lively exchange between these two good friends, as they talk about the blessed season of Advent.

Listen in, and encourage others to do the same!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/13/20

REFLECTING ON THE SPECIAL SEASON OF ADVENT

I recently found a series of photos on Twitter that are entitled Foto di Assisi.” I began viewing these photos of a city and land that I had come to love very much during my student days in Rome. Often, if I had a couple of days off, I would take the train to Assisi just to spend time walking and praying in this sacred and beautiful city where one truly senses the presence of St. Francis and St. Claire. 

During one of my trips to Assisi I purchased a copy of a book entitled “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” or in Italian, “I Fioretti di San Francesco.” It is a collection of stories and reflections of the early days of the “Little Brothers,” or “Friars Minor”! However one might view these accounts of the life of the early followers of St. Francis, they are above all narrations and accounts of Faith and trust in God reflected in the life of St. Francis and his early followers.  

One day I walked (I was only 30 at the time) from Assisi, down to St. Mary of the Angels, over to a place called “Rivotorto,” and then back up to Assisi, to the Basilica of St. Francis, to the Cathedral of Assisi, and then all the way up to the Fort (“Rocca”) to hear the Angelus bells ring as the sun set over the Umbrian Valley!   

In reading those stories, I could hear St. Francis speaking directly to the first Friars, calling them “Brothers all” or “Fratelli Tutti,” which is the title of the latest encyclical letter of Pope Francis, which is an encouragement to us in this time of fractures and divisions in our society and culture. The Holy Father opens his latest encyclical with these words, which can give us something to reflect on in the last days of Ordinary Time, and as the new liturgical year comes upon us with the beauty and mystery of Advent.  

“FRATELLI TUTTI.” With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother ‘as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.” (No. 1)  

As the Bishops’ support group I am in was reflecting on these words, we also had with us some reflections of Focolare foundress Chiara Lubich from the November 1981 “Word of Life.”  These were not too different from the words of Pope Francis. A short excerpt is: 

..With these words, Jesus does not want to lead people who are unhappy towards an attitude of simple resignation by promising them a reward in the future. He is thinking about the present. In fact, his Kingdom is already here, even if not definitively so. It is present in Jesus who has overcome death by rising again after dying in great affliction. It is also present in us, in our hearts as Christians: God is in us. The Trinity dwells within us. And so we can experience the happiness that Jesus promised…Sufferings remain, but there is new energy to face the trials of life to help others who are struggling in some way: there is new strength to overcome sufferings and to see and welcome them as a means of redemption as Jesus did.”  

I hope that the Advent season will be days of blessing, comfort and hope that the Lord offers us. 

Next week – more on Advent. 

God bless you always and your loved ones in these special days. 

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC

Restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 means that long-held holiday traditions will be altered significantly this year. Most people will not be able to experience the familiar liturgies and music inside the sacred space of a church. On Nov. 17, the state ordered that no indoor Masses are to be held. People who celebrate Mass outdoors in parking lots must cover their faces and stay six feet apart from one another. 

Yet the season of Advent and Christmas need not be any less important or meaningful. Mass services have already been streaming by most parishes so that everyone can connect with the Church and participate from home—and this will continue through the holidays. “A lot of people say this is a very satisfying experience considering the limitations,” says Lesa Truxaw, director of the Office for Worship. Though receiving the Holy Eucharist is not possible, she says, viewing services “helps us to enter into prayer in a time of worship.” 

The Diocese of Orange has launched a website to help Catholics celebrate Advent. Visit rcbo.org/advent 

“Advent is a season of hope and waiting,” says Truxaw. “As Catholics we’re asked to linger in this time and prepare for the birth of Jesus, just like any family preparing for a new baby.” The Advent season begins on Nov. 29 and “it ties in with what we’re expecting this year—we are waiting for this pandemic to be done. We are hopeful that we won’t get sick. We are waiting for the time when we can gather again with family and friends. Advent fits very much with our experience right now,” she says.  

Katie Dawson, director of Parish Evangelization and Faith Formation, suggests delving into Advent in a variety of ways. Reading Scripture during the week before Sunday as a family is one way, helping children to understand words they might not recognize.  

Another Advent practice is to read Scripture using Lectio Divina or “divine reading.” This story by Devon Wattam from the Catholic Sistas website (catholicsistas.com/lectio-divina-grow-closer-to-god-this-advent-through-divine-reading), a collection of blogs from Catholic women around the world, offers a step-by-step guide to this meditative reading practice. 

Advent prayers can be found on the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions) as well as the website of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange (rcbo.org). 

Family activities such as constructing a crib scene together or helping a local parishioner in need are described in another story on the Catholic Sistas site by Antonia Goddard (catholicsistas.com/being-the-living-crib-2/). The group called Abiding Together has made available reflections on the meaning of the season in a series of four podcast talks about Advent with noted Catholics (abidingtogetherpodcast.com/advent-series).  

For parents, Dawson also recommends the book called Around the Year with the von Trapp Family by Maria von Trapp, the singer whose story was the basis of “The Sound of Music.” In this book, she provides hymns, recipes and activities she shared with her children every holiday. They made Advent wreathes and calendars and studied the lives of saints—activities that strengthened family bonds. 

Truxaw recalls an Advent tradition in her husband’s large family in which each person secretly prayed someone else in the family, did their chores and bought a Christmas present for them. “The sense of anticipation and goodness that is exhibited makes this a great way to prepare for Christmas,” she says. 

It’s also helpful to remember that previous generations suffered through poverty, war and disease and still celebrated Christmas. 

“Two books from my childhood, ‘Little Women,’ and ‘Five Little Peppers,’ come to mind,” says Dawson. “Both are about families that endured hardships and found ways to create special celebrations. It is the very important task of parents to dig deep and help children to see we have many things to be thankful for. We have the great gift of Jesus, the source of our true hope. If we take a pause, say a prayer, light
a candle, and hold hands and have some silence with our children, we could find this Christmas truly a special celebration.” 

Christmas can be emotionally difficult for some people, especially for those without families or who feel alone and isolated. One antidote is to reach reach out to help others, and for Catholics there are many ways to do this, such as helping distribute groceries at the Cantlay Food Distribution Center. “Even now in this time there are still opportunities to connect by hope and healing,” says Katie Dawson. “Volunteering is a great way to contribute time and energy to benefit others and connect with other people who have the same interest in serving. We have to ask, ‘How can I make life better for someone else’? 

CELEBRATE THE SEASON

As we prepare to celebrate Our Savior’s birth, Advent offers Catholic families a new season of anticipation, gratitude, and love. 

Even with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, or perhaps now more than ever before, Advent prayers, activities, and contemplation provide peace and foster joy in the hectic weeks marching toward Christmas Day. 

“Advent is a time when we can step back from the hectic routine, slow down and contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation,” writes Maria Alejandra Rivas in her guide to Advent at catholic-link.org. “It marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church that slowly builds momentum towards Christmas as the weeks go by.” 

Rivas lists some ways we can prepare our spirits to receive Jesus, beginning with preparing our hearts through prayer. “Offer your heart as a dwelling place for the Holy family to live in,” she suggests. “Ask Jesus, Joseph and Mary to help you live out Advent as a time to prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus’ birth.” 

 

Some of her ideas include: 

  • Learn about Advent and why we celebrate different seasons in the Church.
  • Make a plan of action, including a list of things that need to get done to free up time and avoid distractions.
  • Set up a space for prayer.
  • Create a simple Advent wreath. Explanations and resources are available at Catholic websites.
  • Develop a simple family Advent calendar to count down to Christmas Day with special quotes or Bible verses about faith, hope, and love.
  • Don’t forget those in need. “Jesus came to serve,” Rivas reminds us, “so following in his footsteps we should consider how we could serve our brothers and sisters in need.”  

 

Other ideas for meaningful prayer and activities for Catholic families abound online. Printable prayers and useful explanations can be found at sadlier.com. At catholicicing.com, there’s a list of 10 Advent traditions for Catholic families that require little to no preparation. 

In addition to the Advent wreath, which provides a prayerful means of counting down to Christmas, there are several key opportunities for families to celebrate the season. 

  • On St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, it’s a tradition to tell children the story of St. Nick and fill their shoes with goodies overnight. 
  • Attending Mass as a family on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, offers the chance to explain what the feast day means. 
  • Singing religious Christmas carols like “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” as you go about chores and errands can help you and the kids home in on the reason for the season. 
  • Consider driving around to look at Christmas lights on St. Lucia’s feast day, Dec. 13, a fitting tradition because her name means ‘light.’ 
  • Cook a Mexican dinner to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. 
  • Display a nativity scene in your home; if you don’t have a permanent one, printable sets are available online. 

 

As you prepare to mark Advent, set aside a time for daily prayer as a family, Rivas recommends. Wake up a few minutes early or assign another time during the day or in the evening. “By doing this, you’ll have dedicated time on your schedule for prayer and reflection, and you’ll begin to grow in discipline.” 

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

The statues of the saints seemed to come to life, lit only by candles. It was our first Rorate Mass, held last Advent, and the church was adorned with candles (no electric light) in honor of Our Lady. The interplay of light and darkness echoed the anticipation of Advent as we awaited the Light of the World to dispel the darkness of sin. 

It is moments like these that remind me of the many ways technology reshapes not just our physical surroundings, but our psychological experience as well. My 6-year-old son was haunted by the predawn Rorate Mass. The normally staid facial expressions on the statues seemed to change with each flicker of the candlelight. It was a healthy fear, I think, one borne of encountering something ancient and mysterious. 

How many times can we say that we have this experience in our everyday lives? Or in the liturgy for that matter? I would venture to say that those occasions are rare, but precious. And some of that has to do with our tendency to examine everything strictly under the light of reason. 

I could have told my son not to worry, that the shifting statues were just an illusion. His eyes were just unable to focus properly under such low light. And this would have been absolutely true, in the rational sense. 

But wasn’t there another truth at work in the church that day? One that transcended the light of reason and yet did not violate it. It was true that the Light of the World was mere days away from entering the world through Mary, and that the candlelit ritual was a sign of his imminent arrival. 

The interplay of light and darkness in the church that day provided a cosmic commentary on the primordial tension between good and evil. The fact that the statues seemed to come to life under those primitive conditions illuminated the reality that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the one who gives light and life to otherwise dark and lifeless creatures. 

Now I could teach my son these ideas by reading him the Gospel or telling him the story of salvation. But I couldn’t create the conditions that brought that stunning reality to life on my own. Only the church can do that. In her tradition, her wisdom and her liturgical patrimony lies an experience that transcends our rational and technological efforts to illuminate reality. 

Next time you are on a screen (like right now perhaps), consider the source of light, both physical and spiritual. Screens shine on us from without, delivering all sorts of information and knowledge. As Catholics, our baptism ignites a light from within that brings us to a glow when we are living in accord with God’s will. That is the light that the world needs to see, the one that the darkness cannot comprehend.